Billy Davis has been known to show some old footage of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense from time to time as a teaching tool. When this was brought up to Cary Williams Thursday, the veteran corner had an involuntary reaction upon hearing the Steelers’ name — his body rejecting it like it might some bad salmon.
“Ummm, aahhh…no…I haven’t seen it,” said Williams uncomfortably, before spitting it out. “I hate Pittsburgh, to be honest with you.”
Old habits die hard, especially for someone wired like him. The feisty corner couldn’t help but get worked into a lather when the Patriots stomped all over his grass this summer. Something in him triggered, like it did (in a much more subtle way) this week. Those are his bitter rivals. Or at least they were.
Now one of his old foes — Patrick Chung — resides just a couple locker stalls down from him and is his partner in the secondary. Right next store is James Casey and across the way Connor Barwin, two players that have more natural disdain for the horseshoe than they do the star. And on it goes.
Twenty-two men on this 53 man-roster are new. That’s 42 percent of the team that hasn’t been here long enough to grow roots. They’re working their way into the soil inch by inch.
“I don’t know anybody’s rivalry right now in this locker room,” said Williams, “anything that’s going on with rivalries with New York, with the Cowboys, with the Redskins. You hear guys saying they hate New York, they hate Dallas. Those type of things kind of play in my mind as well. If you hate ‘em, then I’m gonna hate ‘em, and we’ll just go out there and play football and hate these guys together. Once we start to get to know each other and things like that, we play with each other for a little bit and continue to build on the relationships both on and off the field, I think you’ll see a difference.”
The struggles on defense are typically linked to personnel and scheme change, and that’s a big part of it. A sliver also needs to go lack of continuity. This is a group still trying to get on the same page on a variety of levels. They’re still learning to play together and, yeah, even hate together.
Williams reiterated that, while there is a sizable learning curve to navigate, the goal is to establish an identity as a feared defense. He wants receivers to cut their routes short and backs to run with apprehension because they know they’ll get walloped. The hope is that this unit is building towards that, however slowly.
“I think we’ve got guys flying around, getting to the football, guys that are willing to make plays — I think it starts there,” said Williams. “We’ve got guys out there with attitude that don’t want to get beat. I just think we have a great camaraderie right now and hopefully when we build on those things a little bit more each and every day, we can get better.
“We definitely have a personality in development. It’s still a little murky right now, but at the end of the day hopefully we can establish some type of identity that we can build on and play with confidence with.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Michael Vick talks about his prospects of playing Sunday.
Chip Kelly believes Nick Foles can be a full-time starter.
Sheil with a quality All-22 post on how the running game could change with Foles under center.
A look at how the rookies have fared through five games.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Reuben Frank says Nate Allen is showing signs of progress.
Allen has raised his game recently. And he said that as critical as fans and media have been of his play, nobody could be as critical as he is himself.
“Real critical,” he said. “I beat myself up pretty bad. Not during the game, but after the game, watching tape. But that’s what makes me a better player, when you can sit there and criticize yourself and face what you did wrong.”
Jeffri Chadiha of ESPN.com chimes in on Kelly.
It’s taken just over a month for Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly to learn an important lesson about the NFL. Winning in this league isn’t about how smart a coach can look. It’s about how resourceful a coach actually can be over the course of a season.
As the Eagles limp along, trying to find something resembling momentum, the real question about Kelly’s potential will be whether he can make that transition. It’s easy to ponder the Eagles’ possibilities when merely surveying their impressive offensive stats (they average 27 points and 454.8 yards per game).
It’s also important to look beyond those gaudy statistics when taking a true measure of this squad.
We’ll give you our predictions for the game.